APC Makes U-turn After INEC’s Letter, Says Buni Remains Leader

Mai Mala Buni and Sani Bello

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refused to recognise the acting Chairman of the All Progressives Congress(APC), Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State.

This automatically scuttles an attempt by some governors of the ruling party to sack the Chairman, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, Governor Mai Mala Buni.

Bello had written a letter to INEC requesting that the commission attends the APC’s National Executive Council meeting scheduled for next Thursday where Buni and the APC Secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, were expected to be removed.

But the commission informed the CECPC that it can’t honour the request because the letter of invitation was not signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the CECPC, Buni and Akpanudoedehe, respectively.

INEC further faulted the letter, reminding the signatories to the letter that of the provision in Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, “which requires ‘at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference, or meeting convened for the purpose of merger and electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any elective office.”

The commission, therefore, urged the APC to note the issues raised and ensure immediate compliance.

Following the receipt of the letter, the APC said Buni remained the chairman of the caretaker committee.

The Spokesperson for the party, Ismaeel Ahmed, who also doubles as the party’s youth leader, made this known while fielding questions from journalists at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja.

Asked about the party’s position on Governor Buni, Ahmed said, “I think it’s very simple. I don’t know why this is a complicated process for a lot of people to understand.

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“Since the inception of this CECPC on June 25, 2020, whenever the chairman is not around and Governor Sani Bello is around, he acts on behalf of the chairman. It has always been the case. This has never changed.

“And now we have a convention on March 26, the chairman wrote a letter and transmitted it for his leave to go for medical treatment. These are two emergencies. He has a medical emergency that cannot wait for (the) convention. We have a convention that cannot wait for him to be healthy.

“The Chairman left, transmitted a letter, Governor Sani Bello has been acting appropriately. What is the problem? Why is it difficult for people to simply understand that? So, Governor Bello is acting with the full authority of the caretaker committee and with the full authority of the stakeholders, and leaders of the party, and with the full consent and knowledge of Governor Buni.”

Ahmed’s assertion is however contrary to the claims by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who, in a live television interview on Wednesday said Buni had been removed as chairman based on an instruction from President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking on the position of the secretary of the caretaker committee, Akpanudoedehe, Ahmed said the committee members did not discuss him, except those who had definite responsibilities under specific departments.

He said, “On the issue of Senator John Akpanudoedehe, we didn’t say anything. We just talked about the members of the committee. We didn’t talk about either the secretary or the chairman. They have their responsibilities cut out for them. The other members are the ones that are all told to come back and handle specific departments.

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“And that’s what we are doing, you know, and at the full course of time, once all these things are over, we will be able to brief you maybe next week on the full status but for now, these are the responsibilities of every member.

“So, there is no issue here. The chairman transmitted power to Governor Bello and he is fully driving it right now and we are moving towards convention with the speed that is needed to move towards convention.”

When asked about the National Convention, the party spokesman replied in the affirmative that it would hold as scheduled and that no new letters were needed to be transmitted to INEC in that regard.

“You don’t need another 21 days’ notice and that letter was written about two weeks ago, when we realised that we couldn’t hold it on February 26. The moment the CECPC agreed on March 26, that letter was written to INEC, INEC accepted that letter.

“The issue of the date of convention is not in question, not in INEC, not certainly with us. That is settled. March 26 is sacrosanct, and we have complied with all the rules and we have notified INEC as appropriately expected for us to do that. So that’s no longer an issue,” Ahmed stated.

On the status of the NEC meeting, the spokesman said, “I think Prof. Tahir Maman, who is overseeing the Legal Department of our party, would be addressing you once all these issues are clarified but notice has been sent out for the NEC meeting. We are still on that, whatever it is that’s going on, I think Prof Tahir will address you as I told you on this issue.”

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